Revisionism — 1999

By Sherrel A. Mercer

Revisionism was once a recognized characteristic of the propaganda machine of the international Communist Party. One only needed to read or hear a few sentences to know that the facts of history were changed, twisted, and restated to further the peculiar political aim of the Party. It was very common to read descriptions of the United States as a colonial, imperialist power, bent on gathering any and every foreign possession under its flag. Never mind that the quest for freedom for the oppressed dictated much of American foreign policy the last two hundred years. It was also very common for a ruler in Soviet Russia, for example, to be so disgraced that his name was removed from streets, buildings, and cities, as if he never existed!

The Lord’s church has a fight on its hands now with revisionists. The list of subjects is growing; we could consider marriage/divorce as a bellwether, with error of every kind being found on every front. That which was once sacred has been redefined in terms to better suit the ear, the audience, or the untrained conscience. A sermon today on marriage, from some revisionist preachers, does not even sound like a sermon on the same subject from the same Scriptures preached thirty or forty years ago.

A common denominator of the revisionist preaching today is an individual spokesman who is personally affected or afflicted by the plain truth on a specific subject. Matthew 19:9 is suddenly rethought and retaught in the light of the son, daughter, brother, sister, or whomever, that is disciplined by the plain truth of that Scripture. The fact that the plain truth condemns an action causes the truth to be redefined in a way so as to soften its effect.

The apostle Paul was once chastised by Festus, who told Paul, “Much learning doth make thee mad.” (Acts 26:24) Much learning did not make Paul mad, but it seems to make preachers revisionists today. There are those who value learning and education so much that any pronouncement from any scholarly source becomes truth, without the need for any scrutiny. And if the scholarly pronouncement conflicts with the revelation of Scripture, the revisionist rewrites the Scripture, instead of demanding the proof of the pronouncement.

The biblical account of creation is a good example. There is absolutely no reason to doubt that God could and did create the world, including man, in six days. There is absolutely no reason to require periods of billions of years for anything that is made to have been made. And there is absolutely no reason to place blind faith in evolution or the big-bang theory, simply because that modern learning teaches it dogmatically for the truth. Any time evolution has to stand the test of scientific scrutiny by minds that are intellectually honest, evolution fails miserably to explain the origin of the world we know.

Some Christians want to revise Genesis 1 and 2 to fit evolution, and they end up as theistic evolutionists. But they can find very little comfort from Scripture for such a position. Others simply must have long periods of time for God to do his creative work. Such a requirement destroys the step-by-step relationships defined from day one to day six of the creation week. It simply limits God. Others try to find a fit by saying that the living part of this world was an instantaneous product of divine creation, after several eons of time had transpired with nothing alive — plant or animal — occupying the earth. This position claims “inorganic evolution” as dogma, and allows God a last- minute presence. Somehow, I cannot relegate God to a last-minute bit part.

I am saddened greatly by the posture taken by informed Bible teachers when confronted with the modern-day scientific learning of their children. If the parent is not to be considered hopelessly out of touch with current ideas, or if the parent does not want to be relegated to less than usefulness by the children, the parent becomes a revisionist and begins to teach something other than Genesis 1 and 2 as the authoritative answer to the origin of the world.

One of the preachers we supported has become a revisionist about creation. Whatever the reason, he is not teaching what he taught before, and he is not teaching the simple truth of Genesis. He no longer sounds the clear teaching of creation in six twenty-four hour days. Please do not misunderstand me: a revisionist can be taught, and he can be returned to the simplicity of the scripture. Much effort has been made to try to right his ship. But it is often difficult to restore such a one, especially if (1) he begins to blame others for his obvious doctrinal predicaments, (2) he begins to attack the messengers of truth, and (3) begins to defend himself or his own position instead of defending the truth. Having determined to our own satisfaction that the mentioned preacher had fallen into all three of these weaknesses, we elders had no choice but to suspend our support for that preacher.

Our position as elders has always been to support preaching, not preachers. There is a great difference. Our responsibility, locally or afar with the men we support, is to know the individual well enough to know if we are supporting truth or supporting a man. If we are simply supporting a man, we have missed the point of the scriptural pattern.

We strongly believe that godly men everywhere, serving as elders, need to reinforce their responsibilities toward the defense of truth. After all, the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. But if local leadership acquiesces in the idea that a preacher is the spiritual leader of the congregation, or in the idea that a preacher has the benefit of the most learning and must therefore lead the elders, then the divine pattern is destroyed.

Is there any wonder why there is trouble in Judah?